Friday, 4 April 2008

Virginia Woolf on Reading

Dovegrey Reader's contribution to the Oxford Lit Fest's panel on Blogging the Classics ended with a sublime quotation from an essay by Virginia Woolf, "How Should One Read A Book?". The whole essay is a perfect manifesto for reading but this final paragraph is worth a post of its own:

Are there not some pursuits that we practise because they are good in themselves, and some pleasures that are final? And is not this among them? I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards—their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble—the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when he sees us coming with our books under our arms, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.”

I've read just about every biography of Virginia Woolf. One day I shall pluck up courage to try her novels (reputed to be "difficult"). Meanwhile, essays like this from her Common Reader series, so clearly written and so brimming with new ways of looking at literature, are a breath of stimulating fresh air.

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